Thursday, April 25, 2024


    Contemplation is being open to all of the reality we can stand.” Richard Rohr

    YES. AND we're more deeply conditioned than we realize, to quickly, instinctively say NO! to anything unpleasant, uncomfortable, painful, distressing, and even 'different' than what we're used to! A LOT of today's reality is far from likeable and very difficult to accept! So mostly unconsciously, we tend to shrink back & shrivel up, further & further away from the full spectrum of reality.

    “The smart way to keep people passive & obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” Noam Chomsky, “How the World Works”

    A rigid defensive posture - whether self & or externally imposed - imprisons us in a small, narrow, constricting, supposedly 'safe' box. 'Ordinary unhappiness' or much worse, is the inevitable result. We feel trapped, like a caterpillar stuck in a cocoon. Fearful defensiveness easily turns into offensiveness, and much worse - the violent polarization in politics, race, religion, social media, etc & the endless slaughter of wars that we witness on the news daily.
Brian McLaren's 45-minute overview from a Developmental Psychology / Mystical Christian perspective is imho excellent : .
    Kelly Noonan's
2017 (1hr 46min) documentary "Heal" on Netflix is also imho very applicable & well worth watching : 

    Of all the ways you can limit yourself, your own self-definition is the most powerful.” Michael Crichton

    "Letting go of our suffering is the hardest work we will ever do. It is also the most fruitful. To heal means to meet ourselves in a new way - in the newness of each moment where all is possible and nothing is limited to the old." Stephen Levine

    By saying YES! to ALL of life's 10,000 joys AND 10,000 sorrows we free ourselves, spread our wings, and fly!

    Mindfulness practice - and really all deep spiritual practice - is about "cultivating a certain kind of intimacy with the core of our being."
Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD
    Gradually we learn to practice remembering, feeling, recognizing & re-connecting with
who / what we can sense we are in the depths of our being – our true selflove.

    "Wisdom comes when we live from the heart. It’s the recognition that love is the only power that is moving any of this."
Jac O’Keeffe

    “A mystic sees beyond the illusion of separateness into the intricate web of life in which all things are expressions of a single Whole. You can call this web ‘God, the Tao, the Great Spirit, the Infinite Mystery, Mother or Father,’ but it can be known only as love.” Joan Z. Borysenko PhD

    THIS is the mystics' level of consciousness, expressed in Rumi's
The Guest House" :

"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond

     “I share poetry when speaking about mystery, because as a great poet said, ‘You can’t get the news from poetry, but men and women die every day from lack of what is found there.’
    Poetry connects us to the mystery. This is in the same spirit as Buddhist texts that begin with the words, ‘O Nobly Born, remember who you really are, you are the sons and daughters of the awakened ones.’ You are in the lineage of those who have awakened before you. Look directly at the mystery of love and existence. It is your birthright to remember freedom and awakening.
    ‘If I had influence with the good fairy who’s supposed to preside over the birth of all children, I should ask her gift to each child in the world a sense of wonder so indestructible it would last throughout their life.’
Rachel Carson
    This is one of the gifts of poetry. We can meditate to quiet the mind, we can calm ourselves, we can de-stress, and we can see in new ways. And with this mindful presence, poetry invites a sense of wonder and mystery, and with that, an opening to love.

Jack Kornfield


      "Imagine love wants to see
your true face

    Imagine that nothing matters
except love

    Imagine love as you

love as everything
you’ve ever given attention to

love abides in difference
love as a force
that gives us meaning

love abhors a vacuum
love wants to know love
    Imagine everything matters
love is real
love is a power
uncontainable & inconceivable

love as language, as selfless action,
as water, as purslane, as voles, as dragonflies, as wind

    Try to imagine a
able to rise whole into thin air,
invisible to our eyes
holding our entire awareness
on the thin new blade
of a brightness soon to come

    Imagine the imperfections of
that love adores
love imagining
your radical truth &
trusting your courage
your vision
your journey
to recognize
your self
in vastness."             
Poem by Qayyum Johnson

        “Your task is not to seek for love,
         but merely to seek & find all of the barriers
yourself that you have built against it.”
Helen Schueman

     More about love :

Yuval Noah Harari, "What it Means to be Human" (in 3 minutes!)


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Keep Your Head Up My Love

Noooooooooooooooooooooowwwww …....

faint eternal recurrent whispering hug in silence
reassuring lullaby alone
authoritative voice under a lonely streetlamp 
increasingly confirming warmth glowing within

evermore fingers pointing towards one home
if only we open ears to hear, open eyes to see, open heart to receive …

    “Our English word ‘mystery’ comes from a Greek verb with the root meaning of ‘shutting’ – closing your eyes or shutting up. (The word ‘mute’ comes from the same linguistic root.) Mystery commands silence, since it is precisely that which cannot possibly comprehend mystery intellectually, cannot grasp it by means of logical terms, and yet we can understand it.
    The distinction between comprehension and understanding is a most important one. We may not have reflected on the difference between these two forms of coming to know something, but we are familiar with it – from our experience with music
    No intellectual analysis can ever hope to grasp music in its essence. Yet we can deeply understand music, in moments when we are being moved by it. This understanding implies more than mere emotions. It is an insight deeper even than intellectual comprehension. T.S. Eliot has such moments in mind when he speaks in The Four Quartets of ‘music heard so deeply / that it is not heard at all, but you are the music / while the music lasts.’ Our ‘being moved’ implies that music must ‘do something’ to us before we can understand it.

    Thus, mystery is not a vague and mystifying term. We can clearly spell out what we mean by it. Mystery is a power that we can never comprehend but can understand through its impact on us. ‘What we can grasp gives us knowledge, but that which ‘grabs us’ gives us wisdom,’ says the great medieval mystic Bernard of Clairvaux.

    A mystic, as the word suggests, is someone who lives in touch with Mystery. In this respect, all of us are mystics. In our Peak Experiences, we become aware of that fact, but whether we are aware of this or not, we are at all times immersed in Mystery. Mystery is the power that empowers nature. It is in us and all around us, present and active in all there is.
    When I ask myself, ‘Who am I?’ it does not take long for me to reach a point where I no longer comprehend myself, but I do understand who I am: I am rooted in Mystery. I find this to be true also of everything around me: when I inquire into anything deeply and long enough, my quest leads into Mystery.”

    Steindl-Rast. “You Are Here. Keywords for Life Explorers.” Orbis, 2023. 


    Spiritual intelligence - the ability to recognize & connect with the deeper dimensions of human experiences, such as meaning, purpose, & transcendence. It involves skills such as self-awareness, reflection, and a sense of connection to something greater than oneself :

Leonard Cohen - "Anthem" (Live in London)

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


    Yesterday, during what for me was a pressure-cooker, stressful situation, I experienced a mysterious, wonderful surprise. For mothers, especially grandmothers, this would have been 'no sweat,' but at least some men would empathize with my predicament. I was left to look after my 3 grandchildren: a 19-month old wanting a snack in her high-chair; a 4-year old who wanted to watch 'Paw Patrol' on his iPad (for which I had forgotten the password), BUT who needed an impressive poop in his pants cleaned up; AND I had to walk both of them in a stroller to pick up a 9-year old on a play-date near-by - all within 30 minutes. My initial panic melted into a miraculous 'namaste' connection & wondrous collaboration with the two little ones, resulting in both of them being cared for lovingly, smoothly, effortlessly.
joyful connection we shared was a peak spiritual experience for me, and it happened not during a silent meditation retreat, but during what started out as a 'real shit-show.' This direct experience was transformational, affirming the truth of many mystics' sayings, perhaps the most relevant one being, 'Only have no preferences.

    We automatically judge everyone (ourselves included) & everything as good or bad. But what if everyone & everything is exactly what we need not just to accept, but something FAR MORE RADICAL, to love & nurture like our beloved grandchildren? Our entire life could be miraculously transformed. It takes a while to de-armor & liberate our heart-mind, BUT THAT is ENTIRELY the meaning of our life!

    Below, David Steindl-Rast, a wise 97-year-young Catholic monk and Zen master, has spent a lifetime skillfully putting experiences like mine above into words: 

    “Whenever Mystery or the Great Mystery is mentioned ... remember that this does not refer to something vague or mystifying, but to something we encounter at every turn, with a minimum of mindfulness. Mystery is a power that affects us and everything there is, yet we cannot grasp it intellectually. We can, however, understand it to the extent to which we interact with it from our heart.

    In everyday speech, we tend to use the words ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ interchangeably. Such careless speaking can lead us to muddled thinking and, in turn, to unfocused doing. Therefore, a more precise use of the terms is important for our orientation.
    Purpose relates to work; meaning, to play. We work in order to achieve a purpose, but playing is meaningful, without aiming at any purpose beyond itself. As soon as work achieves its purpose, it comes to an end; to continue would be meaningless. But play can go on and on; it is meaningful in itself.
    To achieve a well-balanced life, we need to balance purpose and meaning. But we will not reach this goal by jumping back and forth from working to playing. We need to integrate the two – to do our work, whatever it may be, with a playful attitude. Any work that you can perform with full presence and with the intention of serving others will be meaningful and, in this sense, playful and worth doing for its own sake. If, considering all this, we ask for the meaning of life, we find a highly surprising answer: a meaningful life must be a playful life. Hinduism speaks of lilathe Great Mystery playing in us and through us. We have called it the Great Dance.

    Lila is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘play.’ In Hinduism, ‘lila’ refers to the idea that we can ultimately recognize, in all that happens, the Great Mystery at play – the Great Sacred Dance of the universe. Not only for Hindus but for all of us, this image is worth pondering. The meaning of our life, we may discover, is learning to stay in step with the cosmic dance.

    T.S. Eliot speaks of the Now as ‘the still point of the turning world.’ That Now is the moment when the dancer is ‘still and still moving,’ perfectly in step with the cosmic rhythm.

    What ‘this whole show is all about’ – the central Mystery of the Great Dance – is Love.”
David Steindl-Rast. “You Are Here. Keywords for Life Explorers.” Orbis, 2023. A Meaningful Book!

    A wonderful overview of the above pivotal topic can be found in Chapter 1, "Spirituality as Common Sense" p21-30 in: David Steindl-Rast. “Common Sense Spirituality. The Essential Wisdom of David Steindl-Rast.” Crossroad, 2008.

David Wall via Getty Images

Monday, April 8, 2024

Hold On, Let Go

     This morning, I woke up from a deep sleep, and immediately sat down to meditate. The house was quiet. The sun shined in. I felt no desire for anything - generally (eg food, drink), or from the meditation. I felt peace, stillness, equanimity. Silence & stillness permitted clear awareness, which in turn allowed me to perceive what is appropriate to this moment, which was simply to be peace.

     Being open-mind-heartedly engaged with whatever the present moment holds makes most of us afraid, so we anxiously try to escape :

    "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." Joseph Campbell

     Be not afraid, it's your time to become a mature human being :



Thursday, April 4, 2024

Recipient to Provider

     At first, we're afraid & feel alone in a seemingly hostile world. Newborn babies probably feel this way, but to highly varying degrees, visceral fear & estrangement can weigh heavily for a lifetime. To prevent this, it's absolutely essential for us to be nurtured in safety & unconditional love at the very least in the first few years of life . We desperately need to have that primal fear, insecurity & isolation loved & hugged out of us! At least one caregiver needs to be dependably safe, holding us, and loving us unconditionally.

    Not knowing we are loved & lovable makes the heart grow cold. And all the tragedy of human life follows from there."
    John Welwood. "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart." Trumpeter, 2006. EXCEPTIONAL!

    Gradually, we all need to evolve into becoming dependable sources of nurturing, safety & unconditional love. Without a nurturing recipient phase, the provider phase is at best very challenging, or drastically worse - "and all the tragedy of human life follows from there."

    Some of us mature, grow up, evolve into who we're meant to be - adults who are spiritually fit to welcome babies and the growing numbers of severely traumatized children & adults into the world. Inter-generational trauma is the natural result of spiritually unfit parents.
strongly suspect that none of us had philosopher kings & queens, saints or mystics as parents. And no matter how hard we tried to be model parents, probably none of us were always instantly there to pick up our crying babies, comforting them back to sleep. That's the baby's first taste of the frightening fact that external circumstances are NOT completely controllable

    The older we get, even the control we did have over our physical life in our prime, progressively starts 'slip-sliding away.' We have 2 choices, age unsuccessfully - OR - successfully.

    “The easy path of aging is to become a thick-skinned, unbudging curmudgeon, a battle-axe. To grow soft and sweet is the harder way.” James Hillman
    "Aging is inevitable; becoming wiser with age is not. Researchers, theorists, and clinicians have noted that older adults approach their lives in one of two ways: Either they draw on their strengths & live life to the fullest, or they magnify their weaknesses & restrict their lives to succumb to life's inevitable end.
Rigidity is a tendency to resist change, while flexibility is the ability to adapt to change. The conscious aging theory espouses late life as a period of deeper meaning & personal growth.
    As long as one remains engaged late in life, personality continues to develop. One's sense of self changes as one negotiates the conflicts proposed at each stage (of psychological development). The conflict assigned to 'old age' is that of integrity versus despair."
Giblin JC. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv 2011; 49(3): 23-6.

    Spirituality for me means ‘aliveness.’ It comes from the Latin word spiritus, which means 'life' or “life breath.” So, spirituality is our full aliveness — particularly the aliveness to that mystery with which we are confronted in life. As human beings, we are confronted with mystery — that which we cannot grasp. We cannot get it into our grip. But, we can understand it by letting it grasp us.
    That is the longing: to find opportunity to let yourself be gripped & grasped by this great mystery. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a great medieval mystic, says, 'Concepts give us knowledge. What we can grasp gives us knowledge. What grasps us gives us wisdom.'
    Every human being longs for that wisdomlongs to be touched by that mystery. A good example is music. We can’t grasp music. Nobody can grasp music. But, we can understand music. How do we understand music? When it grasps uswhen it does something to us. Then we understand. That is a big, pretty accurate image for what it means to be to be in touch with what I call mystery.”
David Steindl-Rast: Grateful Living in the ‘Double Realm’ – Tami Simon interview
    The ancient Asian greeting, "Namaste" (the Divine in me, recognizes & honors the Divine in you) intended or said while bowing with palm of hands held together, is beautifully expanded upon:

    “I honor the place in you
     where the entire Universe resides.
     I honor the place
     of love, of light, of truth, of peace.
     I honor the place within you where
     if you are in that place in you,
     and I am in that place in me,
     there is only one of us”
        Ram Dass, on the meaning of Namaste

    "What I ultimately encounter in any You, I can also encounter in any tree: Mystery. This happens, as Buber says, ‘through decision & grace.’ Both are necessary: I must decide to open my heart wide for this experience and receive it as a gift. ‘All is grace,’ said St. Augustine, all is Life’s gift. And Life is the story of our adventurous encounters with that ‘Secret,’ of which, so far, we only know from Robert Frost that it ‘sits in the middle & knows,’ while ‘we dance in a ring & suppose.
out the line of any relationship into infinity and it will lead to that ‘Secret’ – the Mystery, which we encounter in & through all that exists.

    Even the most jaded hearts “are longing whether or not they are aware of itto be liberated from their love of power by the power of love.

    But how can we have reverence for human dignity unless we stand in awe before the Mystery? Human dignity is rooted in Mystery.
    David Steindl-Rast. “You Are Here. Keywords for Life Explorers.” Orbis, 2023. DEEP & POWERFUL


Smiling Nova Scotia, late March 2024


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Love and Live!

    “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities – brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” John W. Gardner  

    We are, as Bruce Cockburn sang, "lovers in a dangerous time." We anxiously twitch to echos of the worn out phrase, "It's Do or Die!" in far too many, far too popular blow-em-up action movies, in our own tortured imaginations, and even in the reality of war-torn lands.
of us have almost forgotten our true nature, which is always gently whispering encouragement, "Love and Live!"

“And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts;
a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused,
whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
and the round ocean and the living air, and the blue sky,
and in the mind of man; a motion and a spirit that impels
all thinking things, all objects of thought,
and rolls through all things.”
William Wordsworth 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.”
William Wordsworth

    How can an Ego that is lost & entangled … find its way out and recover the right relationship to the Self (Universal Consciousness, Ultimate Reality)? The answer is this: since the Ego has become lost through forgetfulness & fear, it can find its way home through the opposite of these two: mindfulness & trust. In its innermost heart, the Ego never fully forgets the Self – the puppeteer – but its memory is dulled, as in sleep. The Ego can be aroused from that sleep and return home to the Self – becoming ‘I myself’ again, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
    It is important to remember that the Ego is not a third entity in addition to the I and the Self. The Ego always remains the I, but it is an I all shriveled up, because it lacks the expansive awareness of the Self that unites it with every other I.”   
David Steindl-Rast. “You Are Here. Keywords for Life Explorers.” Orbis, 2023. EXCELLENT, PROFOUND & PRACTICAL!

    Iain McGilchrist's 2021 two-volume book, "The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World" covers in masterful detail, how we deal with reality in two very different, complementary ways: left-hemispheric dominance (essentially serving the "Ego") and right-hemispheric dominance, with an appropriately subordinate supportive role for the left hemisphere, (essentially serving the "Self").

    “I found out from robots the most crucial rule of all for living. Human minds are constantly being thrown off the track by complications. The picture is rarely clear. We are told everything has buddhanature (Divine Nature), and we try to act accordingly. But then we discover that someone we know has done something perfectly execrable (dreadful, appalling), and we begin to doubt. ‘How,’ we ask ourselves, ‘could anybody who would do an evil thing like that have the Buddha (Divine) inside him?’ We feel that our trust has been betrayed, and we resent the person even more.
    But robots are simpler than people. So are mountains and rivers and plants and animals and insects. Suppose these less complicated creatures begin to cause us difficulty. In that case, we have no trouble seeing that the fundamental cause is our failure to function in accordance with the principles of the universe. The machines, the mountains, the rivers, the plants, the animals, the insects all tell us that we, filled from head to toe with the buddhanature
(Divine Nature), have nevertheless not succeeded in being what we ought to be.
    When we forget to respect the buddhanature in the wind and the water, typhoons and floods inform us of our lapse and show us in no uncertain terms how we have not lived up to the buddhanature within ourselves. When we forget the buddhanature in automobiles and other machines we have created, a warning comes to us in the form of accidents or pollution. Everything in the universe constantly tells us that the way to perfect our buddhanature is to respect the buddhanature in other things & people.”
    Masahiro Mori. “Does a Robot Have Buddhanature? A Leading Figure in the Field of Robotics Investigates.” Tricycle March 21, 2023.

    All that we behold is full of blessings.” William Wordsworth

    When we sit and meditate, the Ego does its best to retain control by chattering on, the same circular "story of me" we endure day in and day out
by relaxing, remaining still, and listening deeply to the silence, we periodically return home, disappearing in Mystery. Each time we return with a mind-heart a little bit more open & wiser.

"Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan